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The process of buying hearing aids was in the past much easier. There were only a small number of styles to select from and they all ultimately functioned the same way, which was to say not very well.

It wasn’t until digital technology was incorporated into the design that hearing aids became realistic solutions for the recovery of hearing. And with digital technology, a variety of features became available to regulate a wide variety of listening situations.

But that’s the tradeoff—simple choices that led to inadequate results are now difficult choices with a number of options.

But difficult does not mean impossible, and the time spent is well worth the gains in hearing you can enjoy. It’s also why it’s crucial to work with a reputable hearing specialist that can guide you through all of the relevant factors to consider.

Below are six factors to look for when selecting hearing aids, in combination with the questions to ask your hearing specialist.

1. Programmability

Hearing amplification products are not all created equal. The truth is, the distinction between the cheapest personal sound amplifier and the highest end digital hearing aid is the difference between a Ford Pinto and a Porsche.

Even though you may not need the highest end hearing aid model on the market, the primary difference you should be concerned about between a personal amplifier and a hearing aid is programmability.

Hearing aids should be programmed to amplify sounds based on your unique hearing loss. Otherwise, all sound is amplified equally and that’s not going to help you hear speech any better than before.

Ask your hearing professional about programming potential, including pre-programed settings you can use in a variety of circumstances, like at a restaurant as opposed to at home.

2. Style

Hearing aids are available in many sizes and styles, ranging from behind-the-ear to completely in the ear canal.

You’ll want to balance price, functionality, ease-of-use, and appearance when making your choice on hearing aid styles. You’ll also want to work together with a hearing specialist on this one, as several factors should be taken into consideration, including the degree of your hearing loss.

3. Directional microphones

People invest in hearing aids for a number of reasons and to hear an assortment of sounds, but the primary reason is to hear and understand speech.

If that’s the case for you, you’ll want to inquire about directional microphones in any hearing aid you’re considering.

Hearing aids with directionality contain two or more microphones situated at a specified distance from each other within the hearing aid. The difference in arrival time of sound to each microphone then dictates how the hearing aid reacts to the sound.

This permits the hearing aid to target the specific sound source in front of you, which if it’s a person, will be the sounds of speech.

4. Background noise minimization

Background noise and feedback suppression are featured in most digital hearing aid models, but you’ll want to validate this with any device you’re considering.

Hearing aids contain a microprocessor that can distinguish between high-frequency sounds (like speech) and low-frequency sounds (like background noise). The microprocessor can then intensify speech while curbing everything else.

5. Telecoils

A telecoil is a small copper coil built into the hearing aid. While that doesn’t sound all that remarkable, what it can accomplish definitely is.

Telecoils allow you to talk on the phone without feedback and hook up to hearing loop systems. For instance, if a hearing loop system is installed in a church or movie theater, sound will be transmitted directly to your hearing aid for optimum clarity.

Hearing loops can also be set up in home theater systems for the equivalent effect. Ask your hearing professional for additional details.

6. Wireless connection

Did you just purchase a brand new iPhone or smartphone?

If so, you may want to consider purchasing compatible hearing aids that link up wirelessly to these products. That way, you can stream phone calls and music directly to your hearing aids for optimum sound quality.

Your smartphone can even become your hearing aid remote control, whereby you can discreetly adjust the volume and settings.

There’s much to think about when selecting a hearing aid, which is why it’s critical to work with a trustworthy and experienced hearing care professional.

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